What happens during a veterinary dental cleaning?

The benefits of oral health are well known in people and the same can be said for our pets too! Dental disease causes bad breath (halitosis), pain, infection, tooth loss and can make your pet seriously ill.  It is for these reasons that we often recommend a dental procedure for your pet.

Many of us are familiar with what happens we visit the dentist for our regular teeth clean. However, the same cannot be said for our pets. This unknown often causes some anxiety for pet owners and may make them reluctant to get their pet the necessary dental care they require.

Here we follow Boston during his day in hospital to show you exactly what to expect when your pet comes in for a dental procedure.

Boston is a 7-year-old Boxer x Staffy that came in for a dental procedure after his owners had noticed he bad breath.

Boston was brought in to the clinic on the morning of his procedure. He received a full health check by the vet. This included a full physical exam and a review of his medical history, together with the results of any recommended pre-anaesthetic blood tests.

Boston was then admitted to the hospital where he was given medication for pain relief and relaxation. Once he was nice and relaxed an IV catheter was placed so he could receive intravenous fluids and medications for his anaesthetic.

Many people wonder why anaesthesia is necessary for dental procedures in their pet. The simple answer is it allows us to perform the dental in a safe, stress free and pain free way. It also allows us to perform the necessary x-rays and extractions if required.

Once Boston was under anaesthesia an endotracheal tube (ET tube) was placed in his windpipe to protect his airway from any water or debris formed during the cleaning.

Whilst under anaesthesia Boston is perfectly still which allowed us to perform a full oral health exam which is often not possible in a conscious animal.

He was found to have tartar (calcified plaque) on his teeth which was the cause of his bad breath.

Tartar cannot be removed by simple brushing so a special piece of equipment called an ultrasonic scaler was used to remove the tartar.

After the scaling, specialised toothpaste is used along with another piece of equipment called a prophy cup. These two together polish the tooths surface which further removes plaque and also makes bacteria less able to attach to the teeth. 

The dental scaler and polisher also allow us to clean underneath the gum line and between teeth which is where a lot of dental disease can hide.

After the teeth are clean, dental probing and xrays are performed.

Dental probing is performed using a dental probe which allows us to measure the degree of gingival (gum) attachment to the tooth and also assess the teeth for any mobility. The level of gingival attachment and mobility is often an indication of disease.

X-rays are performed using a specialised dental x-ray. This allows us to examine the health of the teeth under the gum line which cannot be seen with the naked eye. This is a vital step of the dental procedure as a large percentage of disease is detected this way despite the teeth looking normal and healthy on the outside.

If any disease is found, often extraction is performed to prevent/treat pain and infection. Luckily Boston’s dental disease was treated early so he did not require any extractions.

Boston was then transferred back to the hospital ward where he had a quick and uneventful recovery.

Once fully recovered from anaesthesia Boston was then given lots of pats and a well-deserved meal.

He was later discharged the same afternoon and his owners were over the moon with the outcome of his dental!

Here is a picture of Boston the very next day where he was back to his normal bouncy self